Once a refugee of the war in Vietnam, Spa Soleil’s Tracy Phan gives back one massage at a time
By Jasmin St. Claire
While kids in America enjoyed a quiet night’s rest, Tracy Phan would often fall asleep to the sound of bomb blasts.
It’s been a long journey from Vietnam to Marina del Rey, where two years ago Phan opened Spa Soleil after working as a massage therapist in Orange County for seven years.
Offering various styles of therapeutic massage — including Thai, Swedish, deep tissue and a sports massage for athletes-in-training — Phan designed Spa Soleil to treat the everyday stresses and strains that come with living in Greater Los Angeles.
Studies suggest that touching can heal in ways other medicines cannot. And because of her experiences as a child of war and a refugee in the United States, Phan makes a special effort to extend this kind of remedy to U.S. military veterans.
On Tuesdays, Spa Soleil offers free massages to wounded military veterans and cancer patients (walk-in or appointment) as availability allows, and provides special discounts for active-duty personnel.
“So many veterans feel a gap between their experiences in war and the lives that they come home to. Massage is a hands-on way to make them feel connected to another human being,” says Phan, who hopes the free massages will help veterans “bridge the gap” after returning home.
Since opening Spa Soleil, Phan has treated an average of seven wounded warriors each week, all for free.
More recently, Phan has enrolled Spa Soleil in Operation Homefront, a national effort to support veterans and their families. Through Operation Homefront, customers can opt to purchase a one-hour luxury massage package for $99 that covers the cost of providing a free duplicate massage for a military veteran or spouse. The price also includes a $5 donation to Operation Homefront.
Phan says her childhood in Vietnam gave her a special bond with the American military personnel whom she saw risk and even sacrifice their lives to protect hers.
Her impulse to give back was inspired by the warm reception she and her family received after initially relocating to Georgia. Phan’s father, who was in the South Vietnamese army, worked bagging groceries and the family lived in a trailer park. Once after a hurricane struck she saw a neighbor give up his own week’s salary to help the victims.
“These acts of generosity amazed my family. This seemed like the best of the American spirit, and as I grew up I hoped to give it back,” Phan said.
By some estimates, there are more veterans living in Southern California than in any other part of the country. Phan says she encourages other Westside business owners to become involved with Operation Homefront and welcome them with open arms.
Spa Soleil is at 4728 Lincoln Blvd., Marina del Rey. Call (310) 822-4200 or visit spasoleilmassage.com to give a free massage to a veteran.